The Case for Cambridge launched to gain vital infrastructure investment for the city
Cambridge has a dynamic economy and a proven track record of high value, accelerated growth. It has exceptional characteristics that make it a leader in the development of prosperity for the whole of the UK. However, the city is at a crossroads − poised for the next wave of growth but held back by a need for infrastructure investment.
On Friday 9th October, over 150 people attended the public launch of The Case for Cambridge at a breakfast event at the Cambridge Union Society. The audience included many leaders and representatives from the 11-member Partnership behind it, as well as from other business, public sector and non-commercial organisations. We were delighted that the three city region MPs were able to lend their support.
The objective of the initiative is to convince central Government that the Cambridge city region, whilst extremely successful, risks having its growth curtailed by inadequate infrastructure (chronic congestion being a prime symptom), low housing supply with rocketing prices, a paucity of ‘Grade A’ commercial and R&D office space, poorly-funded schools and a shortage of skills in key areas.
The gathering witnessed a very full agenda and extremely interesting speeches and discussions:
- Overview of The Case for Cambridge – Lewis Herbert, Leader Cambridge City Council
- Devolution Public Sector Finance – Alex Plant, chair of CA Transport Project team, and Director at Anglian Water
- Business View on Obstacles to Growth – Antony Mattessich, Managing Director, Mundipharma International
- Growth & Private Finance – Matthew Bullock, chair of CA Growth Project team, and Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge
- Panel discussion: How do we influence central Government?
- Chair: Ian Mather, Chairman of Cambridge Ahead
- Heidi Allen MP (South Cambs)
- Daniel Zeichner MP (Cambridge)
- Lucy Frazer QC MP (SE Cambs)
- Dr Jonathan Nicholls, The Registrary, University of Cambridge
- Neil Darwin, Chief Executive, Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP
- Questions from the floor
Summary of event
Our CEO, Jane Paterson-Todd, welcomed the guests and speakers before giving way to Ian Mather, our Chairman, who outlined the agenda and chaired the later panel debate.
The first speaker was Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council and Chair of the City Deal Board. He gave an overview of the initiative and talked about how the city would benefit from a successful campaign to Government.
This included more local control over tax (currently around 95% of the tax raised here goes to Whitehall), and how private finance could be involved in public sector projects such as funding a new railway station at the Biomedical Campus. He also called for more affordable housing near the city centre, saying, “We don’t want to be a city like the Silicon Valley where people are commuting in over more than 100 miles”.
Alex Plant, chair of the CA Transport Project team and previously at HM Treasury and the County Council, built on this. In a reference to Joseph Chamberlain he said that, “We have the right ingredients for growth in the future in the same way that Birmingham did back in the 19th Century”.
He called for a new infrastructure investment plan tailored specifically for Cambridge that could generate tens of millions of pounds for local investment. And he suggested this could be done via concessions from Government on business rates, letting local councils borrow against their housing stock, even keeping some stamp duty generated locally, and agreeing Tax Increment Finance deals (TIFs) which would pave the way for more involvement from the private sector.
In a message clearly intended for Government, he ended saying that if we don’t take this “golden opportunity” we risk “slaying the golden goose that has been laying the golden eggs”.
Antony Mattessich, Managing Director of Mundipharma International, spoke next to give a Business View on Obstacles to Growth. Speaking passionately about the special nature of Cambridge, he highlighted these obstacles, such as the “taking away of the Tier 1 Visa”, which is making it very hard to bring in the right people to his company from outside the EU.
“It’s not like the old days – you can’t tell people where to work”, he said. He was losing the argument with people, contributing to a diaspora of employees around the world who he wished could be based in Cambridge: “I have a situation now where my head of R&D is in Germany, my head of Business Development & Licensing is in Boston, my Head of Supply Chain is in North Carolina… I don’t want these people to be there”.
In a message that we are repeating to Whitehall, he emphasised that, “Cambridge is not competing against Manchester or Leeds… it’s San Francisco, it’s Boston… it’s India, it’s Indonesia”, and ended, “Cambridge can compete successfully – if it has the vision”.
Our final speaker was Matthew Bullock, a Member of CA, Chair of our Growth Project, and Master of St Edmund’s College, who pointed to radical changes in the financial sectors, most notably among pension funds, that could drive this private investment. He said these changes were leading pension funds to cast their net wider for long term, safe investments to put their money into, adding, “They know this (the city) is growing faster than China”.
There followed an instructive panel discussion entitled, How do we influence central Government? The panel comprised of the three MPs plus Dr Jonathan Nicholls of the University of Cambridge, and Neil Darwin of the LEP, with each member giving their view on the challenge ahead.
After questions from the floor, including an intervention by Baron Lansley CBE (former MP for South Cambs), this very successful event concluded.
The message from the event was clear: Cambridge has a dynamic economy and a proven track record of high value, accelerated growth, and is unique in its importance to the UK economy. But the city is at a crossroads − poised for the next wave of growth but held back by a need for infrastructure investment. View an 8 minute video of the event.
Although this was the public launch, the Partnership has already presented its five key asks to Government which include a tax increment financing deal to provide private capital for infrastructure projects, and innovative funding approaches for local authorities to attract private investors to boost housing and construction. The Partnership continues to engage with Whitehall, and a few days after the launch event The Case for Cambridge was championed in speeches by our MPs in the second reading of the Cities & Local Government Devolution Bill debate in the House of Commons.
The event attracted much media attention, with reports from Cambridge TV, BBC Look East, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and ITV Anglia News, and an article appeared in The Times. The report by Cambridge News gives a very good account of the event. Other coverage included articles in CapX, Business Weekly, Cambridge Business and an interview of three CEOs from the Partnership by Cambridge TV.
Full details of The Case for Cambridge are contained in the prospectus. To obtain a hard copy, please email MCS with your name and address.
View an e-zine version of the prospectus
Download a printable pdf
View a gallery of images of the event
View the presentations
View and download our Press Release
More information at www.thecaseforcambridge.uk
The Partnership of 11 Cambridge organisations
Cambridge Ahead • One Nucleus • Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP • University of Cambridge • Cambridge City Council • South Cambridgeshire District Council • Cambridgeshire County Council • Cambridge Network • Federation of Small Businesses • Anglia Ruskin University • Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce